Wind-driven wildfire burning near Riverside County communities now beyond 5000 acres

Brian Head Fire continues to threaten homes

Around 175 people have been allowed back to their homes near Panguitch Lake under escort. High winds and intense dry temperatures are making it more likely that officials will see extreme fire behavior in the days ahead.

Firefighters worked Tuesday to stem both further growth on the northern perimeter of the blaze and to shore up and extend lines in the Panguitch and Dry lakes and Blue Springs areas. Almost 1,000 firefighters battled a Utah wildfire that grew.

The fire is the largest in the nation at 78 square miles (201 square kilometres).

The brush fire quickly grew from 1,200 acres at 9:30 p.m.to a massive 5,000 acres at around midnight, the Riverside County Fire Department said, adding that it had deployed more than 300 emergency workers to battle the blaze. The fire started on June 17 as a result of someone near the Brian Head Resort using a torch tool to burn weeds, say, investigators.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, one of the environmental groups Noel blamed, said climate change and suppressing naturally occurring fires are the reasons Utah's forests are inordinately flammable.

Another California wildfire, sparked by a traffic accident on a remote stretch of highway 80 miles (129km) east of Los Angeles, has grown to almost two square miles (more than 500 hectares) in just a few hours.


Meanwhile, a firefighters made gains against a wildfire in California's Central Coast region that forced about 250 people to evacuate from their homes. The U.S. Forest Service advised people that what appeared to be a new fire in the San Bernardino Mountains was dust being blown about from an area that burned recently northeast of Big Bear Lake.

She said dead trees left by bark beetle infestations - like many areas in the West - have also contributed to the fire's size and fury.

Two people were hospitalized in the solo-vehicle crash and subsequent auto fire that caused the wildfire on Monday afternoon.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for residents in some areas threatened by the blaze, though it was not clear how many people were affected, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Elayn Briggs, incident spokeswoman for the Brian Head Fire, said more than 1,400 firefighters are battling the blaze and include personnel from federal, state and local agencies.

State Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) said the Brian Head fire has caused anxiety locally because of the lost cabins and lost memories, as well as the safety of firefighters like his son-in-law.

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